on creativity

“The psychological entities that serve as the building blocks for my thoughts are certain signs or images, more or less clear, that I can reproduce or recombine at will.” -Albert Einstein

balloons

“Creativity is as much about ‘problem making’ as well as problem solving.” -Vik Muniz

metropolitan opera

“As an adult, for doing this [problem-making], you can end up in prison, or an institution, or a museum, or a convention, as I am standing here speaking to you.” -Vik Muniz

kid with balloon

“Photography adds a layer of ambiguity to the drawing… creating hurdles or layers in which to look at the image.” -Vik Muniz

globe

Portraits of the Natural Brain

Often times, nature imitates itself. A neural structure only micrometers wide mimics shapes of organisms in the wilderness that are perceptible with the naked eye. Conversely, the awe-inspiring mammoth forms found in the wild are evocative of neural patterns a scientist would be interested in studying under a microscope.

The Natural Brain

Center
Neuron – formed from the varied colorings of cracks in ice

Top
Spinal Column – tree trunk
Corpus Callosum – banana leaf’s branching colorations represents fibers emanating from a central midline
Cortical Layers – natural gradient of white sands
Sulci & Gyri – canyon giving way to a river mimics the folding of the cortex

Bottom
Cerebral Aqueduct – waterfall symbolizing cerebrospinal fluid flowing from 3rd ventricle to the spinal cord
Ventricle – geothermal hot springs
Astrocytes – starlike daisies
Dendrite – evergreen overlooking the Continental Divide

[The brain] is not encased in a black box, but a vibrant and active organ whose constituent parts emulate natural forms we see regularly.

danse macabre

IMG_0872radiology lamp

“The image of Death as a fiddler appears in the works of several composers, but in none is it more effective than in this piece. The orchestra strikes midnight, Death tunes up, then begins his waltz; a second theme on the xylophone evokes the skeletal celebrants, who become more and more energetic until, with the cock’s crow, they disperse and vanish.” — from the Kennedy Center program notes

unknown

“Images of distant and unknown places have long inspired explorers and the public.”

plane over rock
“The photographs made during the Hayden expedition to Yellowstone were an essential reason it was selected as America’s first national park in 1872. Photographer William Henry Jackson captured the public’s imagination and support by confirming the existence of western landmarks previously regarded as glorified myths: the Grand Tetons, Old Faithful, and strange pools of boiling-hot mud.”

hot springs yellowstone
“Half a century later photographer Ansel Adams began his long career of delighting the public with luminous pictures of parks that many would not visit.”

black and white yellowstone canyon

— John Grotzinger, Field Trip on Mars

purple flower close up

“There is no foreign land; it is the traveller only that is foreign.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson

expansion of time, part ii

pink rose against white backdrop

“If different temporal judgments are generated by different neural mechanisms — and while they often agree, they are not required to. Like vision, time perception is underpinned by a collaboration of separate neural mechanisms that usually work in concert but can be teased apart under the right circumstances… If time as a single unified entity slows down during fear, then this slow motion should confer a higher temporal resolution.”

black and white rose with petals

“Time and memory are tightly linked. In a critical situation, the amygdala kicks into high gear… and memories are laid down by a secondary memory system… that makes them ‘stick’ better. Upon replay, the higher density of data would make the events appear to last longer. This may be why time seems to speed up as you age: you develop more compressed representation of events, and the memories to be read out are correspondingly impoverished. When you are a child and everything is novel, the richness of the memory gives the impression of increased time passage — for example, when looking back at the end of a childhood summer.”

pink rimmed rose petals

“The recalibration of subjective timing is not a party trick of the brain; it is critical to solving the problem of causality.”

rose against sunset

“What is the use of perception, especially since it lags behind reality, is retrospectively attributed, and is generally outstripped by automatic (unconscious) systems? The most likely answer is that perceptions are representations of information that cognitive systems can work with later. Thus it is important for the brain to take sufficient time to settle on its best interpretation of what just happened rather than stick with its initial, rapid interpretation. Its carefully refined picture of what just happened is all it will have to work with later, so it had better invest the time.”

-David Eagleman, Brain Time

expansion of time, part i

“Most of our current theoretical frameworks include the variable t in a Newtonian, river-flowing sense. But as we begin to understand time as a construction of the brain, as subject to illusion as the sense of color is, we may eventually be able to remove our perceptual biases from the equation.”

River in Tibet

“The days of thinking of time as a river — evenly flowing, always advancing — are over. Time perception, just like vision, is a construction of the brain and is shockingly easy to manipulate experimentally. We all know about optical illusions, in which things appear different from how they really are; less well known is the world of temporal illusions.”

Wall in Los Angeles

“If we inject a slight delay between your motor acts and their sensory feedback, we can later make the temporal order of your actions and sensations to appear in reverse… we [come to] find that ‘time’ is not the unitary phenomenon we may have supposed it to be. When a stream of images is shown over and over in succession, an oddball image thrown into the series appears to last for a longer period, although presented for the same physical duration. In the neuroscientific literature, this effect was originally termed a subjective ‘expansion of time.'”

Clocks in Black and White

-David Eagleman, Brain Time

zen and now, part ii

“To arrive in the Rocky Mountains by plane would be to see them in one kind of context, as pretty scenery. But to arrive after days of hard travel across the prairies would be to see them another way, as a goal, a promised land.”

road

mountains

~Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

zen and now

utah road

“You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment… through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”

snowy road

“We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on ‘good’ rather than ‘time.'”

rust

“Unless you’re fond of hollering you don’t make great conversations on a running cycle. Instead you spend your time being aware of things and meditating on them. On sights and sounds, on the mood of the weather and things remembered, on the machine and the countryside you’re in, thinking about things at great leisure and length without being hurried and without feeling you’re losing time.”

cablecar moon

~Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

in search of memory

“Twenty-first-century culture continues to be significantly influenced by events that took place in [Vienna] during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, just as each of us continues to be influenced by every experience we have ever had. For human beings, however, ‘influence’ is far to weak a word. We are made of memories. Every moment of our lives brings to a focus the totality of all the moments preceding it.”

St Stephen's Cathedral

“Kandel’s life work has been to demonstrate that memory, learning, and by extension, every other mental process are the result not of some vague set of unexplainable psychic phenomena but rather of distinctive molecular events determined by physicochemical qualities of cellular life.”

Man hiking in Colorado

“Sigmund Freud repeatedly expressed his hope that psychoanalytic theory would one day be subjected to the scrutiny of basic science. There is profound symmetry in the fact that Kandel, another son of Vienna, should have fulfilled so much of that hope… Freud, who began his career as a neuroanatomist studying the structure of cells, made his greatest contributions as a psychoanalyst. Kandel did it the other way around.”

Vienna State Opera House

Excerpted from The Secret Life of the Mind